Tuesday's Answers: Church (and Other Social Situations) With Newly Adopted Children

Thank you for the great responses to Teresa’s question:

How and when did you introduce your toddlers to larger functions–like church? Our Sunday mornings are quite extended–leaving home around 8:30 and arriving home around 1:30 (Church and Sunday School). I’d love to hear what was helpful or hurtful from your experience.

Your thoughts are all posted as comments on the original post; be sure to take a look.

We navigated this with a variety of successes and failures with our four adopted children.  When Eby and Little Man came home, we treated them like new babies.  Eby was 23 months and Little Man was almost five months.  We settled in at home and took our time getting adjusted.  Russ and I were so tired after out trip to Ethiopia and with Little Man waking every 90 min. to eat, we were not eager to leave our house.  Lots of friends stopped by, but we didn’t go out with the children for a little while.

Before we went to church for the first time, we explained to our older children that we would not be passing the boys around.  They were allowed to carry them, but nobody else could.  I wore Little Man in a sling for many weeks and we held Eby most of the time.  Everybody loved seeing them, but most understood that we needed to keep them close.

When Dimples (5 1/2) came home, we thought she was a social, fun child who enjoyed being out and about.  At church we let her play with the other children, visit with adults, etc.  People thought she was darling…until she wore them out.  In retrospect, she was attracting attention to make herself feel safe.  If she could control the adults in the room, nobody could hurt her.  We should have kept her close to our sides as she learned to trust us and know that we would protect her.

Honeybee came home at 10 and jumped right into family life with trips to the pool, church, etc.  If anything, she was used to such an active, busy life, that she felt uncomfortable on days when there was no place to go and she needed to occupy herself.

In terms of church, Eby and the girls all found it challenging adjusting to our two hour service.  Bottles for the little guys, snacks, books, coloring things, and small toys all helped them make it through.  We often stood in the back during the sermon holding the little ones, and in time, they grew accustomed to it.

Every child is different, both in history and personality, and most of us will make mistakes as we navigate this new experience.  Fortunately, our children are usually resilient – they have already survived so much – that we can make up for our errors by changing the way we handle new situations.

If you are just joining the conversation, please feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you!

P.S. I finally fixed the links on my “My Favorite Blogs” page so that each blog opens in a new window.  I hope you find it easier to use – I know I will!  I also added a few new treasures.  Take a look!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Sarah
    March 24, 2010

    I remember when you first brought Eby and Little Man to church and we were pretty new to CC and spent a lot of time back also trying to get our little ones accustomed to the 2 hour service 🙂

  2. Jen
    March 31, 2010

    We learned with our first adoption of 3 Liberian children (by trial and error mostly) that we really needed to keep our children close and not send them off to sunday school or other big group type activities. In fact, even being in highly stimulating environments was something we learned to avoid for that first year or two while they were healing and attaching. We realized that anything that they perceived as "better" (which was pretty much anyone or anything "exciting") would immediately turn their hearts away from us and toward the other thing. Once we realized this and were more proactive in intentionally keeping them close, we saw greater strides in their healing (they had lots of symptoms of RAD) and attachment.

    Now (3 years later) we don't have to really worry about that stuff any more, although we are still careful to not do TOO much to overstimulate them and we do still spend most of our time together. However, NOW we can go on an overnight date occasionally and not "pay" for it with regressive behaviors for the next 2 weeks. LOL!

    Our second adoption (sib. group of 6 from foster care) we came in with more of a plan to insulate as a family and to "circle the wagons" fairly intensely for a while. It has been a really good thing!

    Also, I just stumbled upon your blog and can't wait to check it out some more. We are also a large (suddenly large!) family, we homeschool, and we have adopted 9 of our 10! Nice to meet you!

  3. Karla
    September 17, 2013

    We brought home a 3 yo, 2yo and newborn in 2006 all at once (sibs) from foster care. We had never been parents and were ministers in a 24/7 very demanding church at that time. No one around us understood the need, adoption or attachment which made it hard for our involvement to suddenly be challenged. Comments like, "unreliable", "you have changed" & "maybe you should not have done this" came from people all around us including our pastors. Eventually we stopped a lot of our activities and ignored the naysayers b/c the pressure was just too great. 7 yrs later we are no longer part of the church for MANY reasons. We just brought home 3 more precious little ones 6,5&3 as well. We are now part of a very supportive ministry and have taken our time to gel as a family without all the pressure we had the first time. We now have 6! 10,9,7,6,5&4! Cannot imagine life without any of them!


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